Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Great Grassroots Wake Up Call

This week, after a long hot summer in most parts of America (and intensely foggy and cold one here in San Francisco), where comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) seemed to be quietly forgotten, our hopes for seeing the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and Reuniting Families Act (RFA) pass this year grew dimmer, and key federal rulings on a challenge to DOMA and Proposition 8 were postponed – we got a wake up call at O4I.

Four new co-sponsors for UAFA, bringing our total to 128 in the House (as many as the DREAM Act) and attachments of the DREAM Act and repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) to a Defense Appropriations Bill (DAB) to be introduced for a vote in the Senate by Harry Reid next week.

We’ve also been informed today that Sen. Bob Menendez will introduce a Senate version of CIR probably this month.

There’s been an incredible response on our Yahoo Groups list serve from our core volunteers and activists – this includes direct action and debate. Many people responded to an action to call Sen. Reid’s office in DC and ask him to attach UAFA to the DAB bill. This action made sense on this front: the DREAM Act addresses an immigration issue (giving children of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to become US citizens through enrolling in college or military service); DADT addresses an LGBT issue – permitting gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. UAFA addresses both LGBT and immigration issues. Surely, it has a place here as well.

Or not – UAFA has nothing to do with national defense (unless you consider the American citizens among us who have served our country proudly in the military). We’re probably grasping at straws here. No harm done, though. Calls to Sen. Reid’s office were dutifully logged in by his staff. Maybe he received 10 calls about UAFA yesterday – more likely 100s. He is already receiving enough flak from Republicans threatening to pull support from DAB over “immigrants” or “gays”. Adding UAFA to the mix won’t help. But what did help – most certainly are our phone calls that yet again raised awareness in DC that there is a group of us out here who need immigration and/or gay rights bills passed now – and we are not going to go away.

A better shot at our efforts right now will be to call Sen. Robert Menendez’s office and ask him to “make sure to include the Uniting American Families Act (Senate bill number 424) in his Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation”. His number is (202) 224-4744.

Last year, Rep. Luis Gutierrez introduced similar legislation and left UAFA out. Our action alert to call his office resulted in so many calls he had no choice but to acknowledge he had made a major mistake. He now makes regular statements that say no CIR bill can go forward without UAFA, or UAFA-type language. Hold him to that statement and make sure Sen. Menendez’s legislation includes us from the start.

Our core activists have weighed in. Some urge us to continue calling Sen. Reid’s office (his number is (202) 224-3542. Others say we should put energies behind a repeal of DOMA. After all, getting federal marriage rights is another way to get equal immigration rights. This is a great idea for those in the group who want to pursue making alliances with key DOMA and marriage equality groups. (Marriage Equality USA – MEUSA is one of O4I’s biggest allies, and if someone has the bandwidth to work more closely with this group, please raise your hand!!)

For just about every member who sees the value in working toward getting UAFA included in CIR, there are members who argue we must focus on getting UAFA passed as a standalone bill. Putting our efforts into CIR may end up with us being tossed out at the last minute as part of a compromise (we should wait and see what happens with DADT and the DREAM Act as part of DAB next week for more direction here).

The bottom line with O4I is – and always has been – is that we push for equal immigration rights for LGBT Americans with foreign partners from every angle. And will continue to do so.

What we need are more of you to step up for equality and ask yourself how much time you can donate a week to making a difference. Is it 30 minutes? An hour? 5 hours? Choose an amount of time that is reasonable to you and fits into your life and then stick to it. Use that 30 minutes to make phone calls and take part in the weekly letter writing campaign and post links to your Facebook page or Twitter account to raise awareness. Use an hour to get started on getting your city or state to pass a resolution in support of UAFA and equal immigration rights for same-sex binational couples. Devote 5 hours to designing a campaign to raise awareness, contribute research on other groups we can work with and forging alliances or help us write blog posts, op-eds and issue timely media releases.

If everyone commits now to being involved, we will continue to keep the grassroots alive from the wake up call we got this week.

You can do it. Yes you can – email with questions or for more info.

Special thanks this week to Erik who is in DC getting more support for UAFA inclusion in CIR, Chris B., Tim K. Tom T. and Heather for posting timely information, co-sponsor info and those all-important phone numbers!

To join our Yahoo Groups list and get in on the daily discussions there, scroll to the bottom of the Out4Immigration webpage, click on the "Yahoo" icon and follow the instructions.

No comments: